An Armenian government agency has ordered a small opposition party to vacate its state-owned head office in Yerevan which it has occupied since 1996.
The Democratic Fatherland party is one of about two dozen political groups aligned with the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) alliance led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.
According to its leader Petros Makeyan, the government’s Department on State Property Management refused to extend the party’s lease on the premises that expired on April 1. He said the department claimed that the property is urgently needed by unspecified state bodies.
Makeyan condemned the decision as politically motivated and “arbitrary” and said he will challenge it in court. “They want to muzzle us,” he claimed at a news conference.
A spokesman for the government agency, Manuk Ter-Stepanian, denied that. “I can say for certain that there are no political motives here,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “Our department doesn’t deal with politics.”
Ter-Stepanian said that the lease was not prolonged because the government wants to give the 50 square-meter premises located in Yerevan’s Arabkir district to the local branch of Armenia’s state pension fund.
Democratic Fatherland rented 315 square meters of office space in the same building until the government controversially took back the bulk of the property in 2008. Makeyan was in prison at the time along with dozens of other Ter-Petrosian loyalists arrested following the disputed presidential election of February 2008.
Makeyan was sentenced to three years in prison for allegedly “obstructing the work” of an election commission in the northwestern Shirak region. He was released from prison in June 2009 in accordance with a general amnesty declared by the authorities.